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>From: "Alex Turner" <alturner@xxxxxxxxxx>
>> Date: 27 Feb 1996 09:51:41
>> Reply-to: Conference "reg.burma" <burmanet-l@xxxxxxxxxxx>
>> From: lb252689@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
>> Subject: help!
>> To: Recipients of burmanet-l <burmanet-l@xxxxxxxxxxx>
>> From: Lisa Booth Brooten <lb252689@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
>> I am in need of a succinct answer to the following comments....
Hello, I am a Burmese and I lived under U Ne Win's totalitarian regime for
nearly a quarter of a century.
My following 2 cent contributio, which will NOT be succint, is presented
from a perspective of someone who has been there.
1) It is extremely important to feel that the world, the humanity at
large, has not forgotten your collective plight when your community is
living in the teeth of extremely ruthlesss and malicious power.
I remeber clenching my fist with some hope when I heard that some Burmese
expatriates staged a protest demo in front of Burmese Embassy in a
neighboring country. That was when I was about 10th grade. And I was
able to make a distinction between what was feasible and what was wishful
thinking. That is to say, it's not a fantasia of a young post-adolescent
which longed for freedom parachuted from "the West." It was rather a
feeling of solidarity and its concomittant silver lining.
Usually when people talked about international support, they often
completely overlook one of the most important dimensions of international
support: psychological and/or spritual support. (Not to psycholysize the
2) I don't know where your friend got your idea that Burmese and Burma
activists (and, by extension, the elements within the country who ask for
international support and pressure) are blind to the fact that change comes
from within. (Or at least that's my close reading of what she wrote.)
Those who have appealed to the world's community to help build up
international pressure in any available form include Daw Aung San Suu Kyi
herself and the NLD leaders and supporters besides South African Bishop
Desmond Tutu, Guatemala Rigoberta Menchu and Ireland's internationally
reconginzed peace activists. Daw Suu repeatedly said change must, and
will, come from within the country, reflecting the general attitude of the
people of Burma toward the struggle.
No one in Burma, to the best of my knowledge, is asking that the US Sixth
Fleet come and liberate us.
3). Transnational politics has been in place since time immemorial.
Whether Saudi guy who sends thousands of faxes (forget about his
anti-democratic views, for a moment) back to his native country of Saudi
Arabia or U Aung San, father of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, slipping out of Burma
in search of foreign supportfor their anti-colonialist independence
struggle or Nelson Mendela travelling throughout the entire Africa
continent appealing to his fellow Africans oto support South Africa's cause
and in search of arms and money prior to his imprisonment by the apartheid
regime, transtional politics in essence, remains virtually the same. You
seek whatever available support from whatever sources. (Oh don't forget
Ayatola Khomeni and his transnational politics.)
Look at American Revolution, which received support from the French. The
French Revolution in turn, was inspired by the Revolution in Haiti (This is
little-known for some reasons. Historians would know better!!!.). There
has always been an interplay of the **seemingly** extrenal and internal
factors and forces.
4. Multinational care about two things. Their pockect book and their
Bullets are to dictators and thugs and money is to these unethical
executives, labelled as "Corporate Killers" by Newsweek magazine (Please go
check out a recent issue of Newsweek, which incidentaly is another
If we put concerted efforts as we do, we can really hurt the image and
eventually make a dent in the long run.
5. Surely China and ASEAN trade more heavily with Slorc and hence more
likely to have leverage over the thugs in Burma. But they, too, have to
consider what the rest of the world think; whether or not they admit it is
a different issue. Come on, thanks to colonialism and technology, in this
so-called global village, things are much more interconnected than ever.
That means when you attack one part of that whole connection, the impacts
are felt in other parts as well. Constructive engagement works hand in
hand with economic sanctions, real or perceived, or grassroots consumer
boycott and other actions or armed movement within the country. (Some
people won't feel comfortable talking about armed struggle or violence.
They are all part of the equation.) Dictators weigh their options, just
like everybody. These are individuals making individual decisions. The
point is if and when the so-called constructive engagement appears to make
an impact on Slorc's thuggish behavior, it's because SLorc-bashing
campaign, transational or international grassroots actions, lobbying by
NCGUB at various world's and national bodies stand in the background.
It's not "constructive engagement" vs economic sanctions. In some twisted
ways, both approaches are complemental. Of course, the countries,
governments, that advocate constructive engagement eat the cake and have it
too, while those who impose unilateral sanctions don't gain anything
6. Even assuming that all of my aforementioned argument are simply wrong,
it's extremely important to stand up and speak truth to power, even if for
the record. For nothing is more dehumanizing and more subhuman than sit
back, relax and watch, howeever disturbingly, the malicious bunch of thugs
crashes ruthlessly the collective spirit of a nation that dares to demand
freedom and dignity in the age of complicity.
7. I began my response with asserting the authenticity of my voice as a
native Burmese. There will, without a doubt, be Burmese expatriates who
would say that the kind of international efforts which we have been engaged
in will get us no where. Well, I won't get into this subject. I bring
this up because often times whenever a counterargument (to call for
international pressure), some other Burmese would be quoted, portraying
that they, too, are Burmese and they don't believe anything can be done
from outside to help bring about any change. That's been done at a number
of places including Indiana University, and University of Wisconsin, to
mention a few.
All I want to say is just like constructive engagement advocates who are
poised to gain for their advocacy, there are things at stake for those
8. The call for international pressure has been made repeatedly by Burma's
most legitimate leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. Are we assuming that WE know
what routes Burma's "Second Struggle for Indepence" should take? Do WE
know better than those who live in the teeth of very power which they
attempt to overthrow? ARE we assuming that WE, not THEY, i.e., Daw Aung
San Suu Kyi and forces of democracy inside, know what is good for Burma and
Come on, folks. Whoever dares to even dream, not to mention openly
advocate, as Daw Aung San Suu Kyi or Desmond Tutu, or Rigoberta Menchu do
(all of them call for international pressure), **an alternative vision**
for which they put their lives on the line just can't be stupid.
9. Perhaps your friend might wish to take a look at David Cortright and
George Lopez's "Economic Sanctions: Panacea or Peacebuilding in a Post-Cold
War World" published by Westview Press in 1995.
10. Sorry, Lisa, my response isn't succint. But the problems are complex,
needless to say, and so too are the answers. And inevitably so.
11. I would recommend Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's first BBC interview
(re-broadcast in ABC July 13 interview and available from Larry Dohrs)
where she specifically mentioned about the role of international campaigns
and their impacts on Burma's struggle.
12. Please ask your friend to check out our Free Burma wabpages at
http://freeburma.org and work with us in our grassoroots movement.
Let me end this by a quote from Freedom from Fear:
At the root of human responsibility is the concept of perfection, the urge
to achieve it, the intelligence to find a path towards it, and the will to
follow that path if not to the end at least the distance needed to rise
above individual limitations and environmental impediments. It is man's
vision of a world fit for rational, civilized humanity which leads him to
dare and suffer to build societies free from want and fear. Concepts such
as truth, justice and compassion cannot be dismissed as trite when these
are often the only bulwarks which stand against ruthless power (p. 185).
peace, love, and hope,
When spiders unite they can tie down a lion. (Ethiopian Proverb)
The Free Burma Coalition